Speaker Lindsay Hoyle and other MPs in the Commons chamberImage copyright
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Sir Lindsay Hoyle also warned social distancing will remain in force in the Commons for some time

Plans for daily televised press briefings from No 10 risk sidelining Parliament, the Commons Speaker warns.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle told the BBC he was worried the idea was “not the way forward” and major announcements should always be made in Parliament first.

If MPs always learned of policy changes through the media, it would make it harder for them to do their jobs, he told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.

He also suggested it would be some time before Parliament returned to normal.

While he longed to see the Commons benches “packed” and MPs “jostling” for room again, he said social distancing would only be relaxed when it was safe to do so, due to the threat of coronavirus.

“I can’t see that happening tomorrow, let’s put it that way,” he told the programme. “I think we’re a little bit further away from normality as we knew it.”

In the UK, lobby reporters currently receive twice daily briefings from No 10, but they are not broadcast.

Instead, Downing Street is planning to pilot daily televised press briefings from October, modelled on US briefings from the White House.

The daily coronavirus briefings – which took place for three months up until the end of June – attracted large TV audiences.

No 10 hopes a more permanent arrangement would help the government get its message across, while increasing engagement with the public.

‘Held to account’

Speaking to the BBC’s Carolyn Quinn, Sir Lindsay said Parliament should be the place in which MPs and the public found out what was happening.

“You know the worry I’ve had – that statements should be made to the House first,” he said. “Once you’ve made that statement, by all means go and have a press conference. But do it after, not before.

“If there’s something new to come out and you want to tell the world, tell Parliament and let the world watch it from Parliament’s eyes.”

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Daily televised press briefings are a feature of life in the US

In recent months, Sir Lindsay has rebuked a number of ministers after details of policies appeared in the press before being unveiled in Parliament.

He said he did not want this to become a habit under the new arrangements.

“Members are elected to hold the government to account and we’ve got to allow them to do so,” he said. “And if you’re briefing the press first, that’s not the way forward.

“It’s not good for Downing Street, it’s not good for relations and it doesn’t endear your own backbenchers.

“They want to know that they count and that they matter. And I think that’s the way forward for all of us.”

‘Diabetes tip’

Sir Lindsay, who was elected Speaker in November, said he had been right to insist on the 2m social distancing rule remaining in force in the Commons, even when it was relaxed in society at large.

The guidelines restrict the number of MPs able to be physically present in the chamber at any one time.

While the Commons is at its most lively when it is full, the Speaker said he had a duty of care to MPs and staff.

“It would be nice to be able to turn the clock back and know that you could have a full chamber without risk,” said Sir Lindsay.

“But while there’s risk, I cannot see it.”

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Sir Lindsay also told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour that he enjoyed presiding over Prime Minister’s Questions

Reflecting on his duties, the Speaker said he was enjoying the “clash of styles” between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions.

But he revealed he had been getting advice from one of his predecessors, Baroness Boothroyd, on ensuring the set piece of the parliamentary week did not drag on beyond its allotted 30 minutes.

The Chorley MP also spoke about living with type-one diabetes, which he was diagnosed with shortly before last year’s election campaign.

He said he had been given a “big tip” on managing his blood pressure by ex-Prime Minister Theresa May, who also has the condition.

“When it significantly drops, I have to take a jelly baby,” he said. “So when I go very low, I rely on the jelly baby to put me back in the right place.”

Sir Lindsay added: “I always say to people with diabetes, it doesn’t end your life – far from it. You’ve just got to work with it. And that’s what I want to prove.”

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